The play of colors | Opinion of the applicant

My childhood perya once stood on a wasteland of overgrown weeds and grazing chickens. There are no fairground rides – no roller coasters, carousels or Ferris wheels – but, as soon as dusk falls, this patchwork of painted plywood, wood and sheet metal becomes the brightest and most the liveliest in town. Deafening stereos also make it the loudest. My late grandfather, who lived just opposite the perya, always complained about the noise. But what Lolo Oscar took for noise was actually an exciting summons to me. Once I heard the bingo announcer on the microphone, I knew even a block away that it was the perya inviting me to play. In a minute, I’ll be at the betting table, with the other kids, waiting for Tiya Dulce, the banker, to open the colored game board and start rolling the dice.

The perya was where I thought it was easy to get rich as long as I had coins in my pocket and a handful of luck (of which, I was blessed with only the size of a little finger ). There I learned that the color game was like any other game of chance where losing was always half the bet. That’s why I kept going back to perya every night just to prove the other half: winning. I made sure to save some of my per diem, so I could increase my bets. Sometimes I would look for change around the house, for example near the TV stand, on top of the fridge, and if I’m really desperate, I even rummage through our silong for fallen coins.

Playing the color game was simple. On the betting table, there were six colors: green, red, blue, pink, white and yellow. Three dice determine my chances. If my color appears on one of the dice, I win. But if I lose, I will leave the perya with all my spared money stacked in Tiya Dulce’s money basket. However, my misfortune does not stop there because a few lashes were still waiting for me at home. The minute-long sprint it took me to get to the fair felt like a tedious walk home as I wondered if it was the rattan stick or the leather belt that was hiding behind the door, ready to hit me. I always hoped it was the rattan stick. It stings, yes, but it doesn’t bruise as much as the belt. And oh, the loop. You’ll never really know you’ve been in perya too long until you’ve got a whip of that silver curl on your back.

I can laugh now thinking of those countless beatings I endured for coming home late from the perya as a child. But just when I thought I was already out of the habit of playing; a brand new color scheme made me think otherwise.

I’m talking about the elections in the Philippines. In this game of election colors, each player has only one chance. This chance for me, however, was now lost. Why? My voter registration has been deactivated. “You can’t vote in the next election on May 9, 2022,” the Comelec compound researcher said, apparently making me a default loser. And as I slowly came to terms with losing my only vote this year out of supposed ignorance, a sudden thought occurred to me: do regular voters actually stand a chance of winning this kind of election color scheme then?

What the electorate often fails to recognize is that taking risks on a candidate’s illusion of progress is the real bet they are betting on, not the political color. But no matter how irrelevant and seems to divide the voting population, Filipinos remain invested in this color branding scheme that politicians do. When politicians play the color game, we know it’s serious business because a lot of money is on the table. We’re talking about crunchy, lumpy money in the millions, not just any of those crumpled banknotes that some drunken perya men throw on the betting table. From campaign ads to kickbacks, it’s clear who makes the highest stakes in the election color game. It’s clear who is willing to take the favorable half of the bet and bend the rules. But winning, for the vast majority of active Filipino voters – myself excluded – does not happen on the day when all the ballots are counted and the winning candidate is officially announced.

Six years. This is how long a mandate should take for national leaders to prove that their promises are true. And that is exactly the time we are waiting for the real outcome of the May 2022 elections. In other words, whether or not the Filipinos actually won. We knew from previous administrations that winning doesn’t mean we get the prize we deserve, or what we’ve been told we deserve. Instead, we had to pay the price expected of us in higher taxes and much higher unfulfilled hopes.

Once this election is over, the name of the game goes back to survival. If we win, we win our living. Otherwise, we could lose more lives. So make a bet.

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Christele Jao Amoyan, 27, misses the fun of old perya, except once she got bitten by a rooster tied under the betting table. She returned home early that day with an injured leg.

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